Your questions about
Hot Air Ballooning answered!
Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about hot air ballooning in Napa Valley. If you still want to know more about the hot air ballooning experience, feel free to give us a call at Calistoga Hot Air Balloons of Napa Valley and we’ll be happy to answer your questions about this safe and amazing form of flight.
What should I wear and bring on my hot air balloon flight over Napa Valley?
Early mornings in the California Napa Valley are usually cool. We recommend that you wear layered clothing: slacks or Levi's, shirt or t-shirt, light sweater or sweatshirt, and a jacket depending on the time of year. Flights are early in the morning so you may be comfortable in a jacket, but it will get warmer so you will want to be able to remove layers as the day progresses. We recommend that you wear tennis shoes or comfortable shoes that protect your feet. Sandals or open-toed shoes are not recommended. Bring sunglasses and cameras if you have them. Backpacks may be left in our vehicles attended by our crew.
Why do we fly so early?
The cool temperatures of the early morning hours cause the air in the Napa Valley to flow like a river, with subtle direction changes in the current at different altitudes. These conditions allow the pilot to navigate the hot air balloon over Napa Valley by changing altitude. Once the sun comes up however, conditions change. Starting in the late morning and continuing throughout the day to late afternoon, the sun heats the ground surface; the hot ground heats the adjacent air, causing it to rise like bubbles in boiling water. This boiling action destroys the stable flow of the air, thus reducing the ability to navigate.
How long can a hot air balloon stay aloft?
Depending on many variables such as weight, outside temperature, humidity, altitude, and air density, the time aloft can vary. However, given normal loading and the cooler temperatures of early morning flights, a hot air balloon carries enough fuel for approximately one and a half hours, giving a one half hour margin for safety. How far do we travel? A typical hot air balloon ride is between one and seven miles allowing you to see the full distance of the Napa Valley, CA.
Do we land the hot air balloon where we take off?
No. A hot air balloon will float along with the flow of the air mass, which normally goes mostly one direction. Like flowing water, the air meanders through the Napa Valley's topography forcing an ebb and flow of which the hot air balloon is a part. The air movement can change direction, but it is rare for the airflow to change direction in a way that would take the hot air balloon back to where it was originally launched, though that has happened.
How does a hot air balloon work?
Simply put: hot air is lighter than cold air so a mass of hot air surrounded by colder air will rise. Therefore, when we heat the air inside a hot air balloon it rises through the colder morning air that surrounds it. The forefathers of balloon aviation noticed this phenomenon when they saw smoke rise from fires, spawning the idea for man's first form of flight – Hot Air Ballooning. Benjamin Franklin was present at the first hot air balloon flight, which took place in Paris in 1783. The first public demonstration of a lighter-than-air machine took place on June 4, 1783, in Annonay, France, when Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, two brothers who owned a paper mill, sent up an unmanned hot-air balloon. You are joining the great men of science and history when you float in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley, CA.
What produces the heat?
Modern day hot air balloons have burners that use propane for fuel. Propane is preferred over other fuels due to output verses cost. Other fuels can be substituted, but that is not common in this country. The propane is stored in tanks onboard – usually six tanks – each tank with a ten to twenty gallon capacity. Burners used today employ the latest in technology, producing the greatest heat output with the least amount of noise, a big help in facilitating a good neighbor policy, which, of course, is very important to Napa Valley, CA hot air ballooning.
How do you steer a hot air balloon?
Air flows like water in the cool early morning hours, with currents flowing in slightly different directions at different altitudes. Because a hot air balloon moves with and is part of the air it flies in, the hot air balloon is navigated by changing altitude up or down thus the hot air balloon pilot can use the different air currents to navigate his hot air balloon above Napa Valley.
Is hot air ballooning safe?
Statistically flight is the safest form of travel, and statistically hot air ballooning is the safest form of flight. Hot air ballooning is inherently safe for several reasons. First, a hot air balloon goes only as fast as the air it is moving in. As long as the pilot chooses calm wind days, the lack of speed contributes to safety. Second, hot air balloons can hover; therefore if there is an obstacle to clear, the pilot need only hover until the hot air balloon clears the obstacle. Third, pendulum weight distribution keeps hot air balloons in flight always upright, creating a natural stability, again adding to safety. With their innate slow movement, their ability to hover and pendulum-like stability, hot air balloons are considered to be among the safest aircraft.
When was the first hot air balloon ride?
Hot air ballooning began with a sheep, a duck and a rooster.
On the 19th of September, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers, local paper manufacturers in the town of Alchemy in southern France inflated the first hot air balloon with a combination of straw, chopped wool and dried horse manure. Unsure of the safety of their invention, the brothers decided not to ride themselves and instead selected a sheep, a duck and a rooster as the first hot air balloonists. Miraculously, the paper balloon rose into the sky with the small menagerie on board. Eight minutes later the animals landed safely on the ground.
Is there an age limit?
Minimum age requirements for ballooning excursions - 7 years old. Our child rate (7-12 years).
Child care services are available by referral to your lodging location
Benjamin Franklin witnessed the first manned flight in Paris
On the November 21st, 1783, with the blessings of King Louis XVI, the brothers launched a the first manned hot air balloon in Paris. Benjamin Franklin and other dignitaries were present for the amazing event. This time two of the brothers friends, Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurnet were on board. (The word ‘pilot’ comes from Pilatre de Rozier’s name). The hot air balloon rose 150 meters (approx 500 feet) sailing over Paris, and landing a few miles away in some vineyards.
The tradition of Hot Air Ballooning continues
As the hot air balloon touched down, local farmers wielding pitchforks raced to attack the bizarre flying monster. Pilatre and Francois offered them a bottle of champagne, as thanks for allowing them to land in their field and to prevent the farmers from destroying the balloon. In memory of that first amazing flight, Calistoga Balloons celebrates with a champagne brunch after your hot air balloon adventure… and so the tradition continues.